JAZZ | Peter Margasak
For much of the past decade John Corbett has devoted himself to shining a light on overlooked visual art of the mid- to late 20th century with Corbett vs. Dempsey, the gallery upstairs from Dusty Groove that he runs with Jim Dempsey. This is similar to the treatment that Corbett (an occasional Reader contributor) gave to some of his favorite music via the Unheard Music Series—an imprint of Atavistic through which, for much of the aughts, he released forgotten or previously unissued work by free-jazz greats such as Sun Ra, Peter Brötzmann, and Han Bennink. Though the gallery has released a handful of CDs in conjunction with exhibitions, Corbett is now ramping up the Corbett vs. Dempsey label into a freestanding concern, and on June 6 it will reissue two solo albums by the great Poughkeepsie saxophonist and trumpeter Joe McPhee.
Glasses and Variations on a Blue Line/'Round Midnight, which McPhee recorded for Swiss label Hat Hut in 1977 and released in 1979, have both been out of print for decades. Last year Corbett negotiated with label owner Werner X. Uehlinger to reissue titles from the Hat Hut catalog, the McPhee albums among them, and it catalyzed his desire to give Corbett vs. Dempsey the label a mission in sync with Corbett vs. Dempsey the gallery: "A strong devotion to things we think are fantastic but for one reason or another have fallen under the radar," he says. The Unheard Music Series hasn't released anything since late 2008, and as Corbett explains, "These are projects that I want to be closer to home."
Most titles will be strictly limited to 1,000 copies—once they're gone, they're gone. "The industry has changed and we're not relying on the usual distribution services," Corbett says. "We're doing it all ourselves." More McPhee rereleases from the Hat Hut vaults are on the horizon, and this fall Corbett vs. Dempsey will reissue the ultrarare 1964 Sun Ra recording Continuation, originally on Ra's Saturn label, accompanied by a second disc of unreleased material from the same time. McPhee will celebrate his first two reissues with a free solo concert at the gallery on Wed 6/6 at 7 PM.